Five Steps to Engage with Your Community

Living a missionary life is not just for missionaries overseas. It is for all of us who follow Jesus!

Our lives should always be on mission—on mission for the Lord as His ambassadors and representatives in this world. But how do we do that practically? What does it look like to begin wondering about how we are to engage with our community in a relevant and grace-filled way? Brad Smith, one of our missionaries, describes the steps he used when he relocated from Europe to Richmond, VA to continue living on mission…

Step 1: Embed. What are you curious about? 

Embed just means to get acquainted with your neighborhood, your city, your environment, new or old. Start by finding out information about the people and the culture (or subculture, or sub-subculture) of the area. Curiosity is at the core of mission and sometimes you have to make your own opportunities to live intentionally ready for any spiritual conversation and discipleship opportunity that comes your way. 

Step 2: Have a tangible action plan.

This might mean taking a short survey of people’s opinions of the Bible in your city. I did so in my city of Richmond and the full event can be read about on the blog here. 

What I found confirmed what I’ve always believed—there are many people walking our streets who have never read the Bible, and yet they would, if someone would just have enough courage to invite them to read it together. 

Step 3: Engage with whatever God sends your way.

The simple exercise of taking a survey led to other fruitful opportunities. I met a pastor who invited me for coffee. I found a place where I think we could set up a “survey station” to interact with the local culture and create dialogue about spiritual topics. I was able to bless a man going through a rough spot with a phone and share the gospel with him, I gained valuable information about people’s true thoughts towards the Bible, I was able to pray with a man and encourage him in Christ, and God has blessed it all with further ideas for engaging the local culture. 

Step 4: Don’t be discouraged.

Now true, it’s a bit soul-crushing having so many people ignore you or turn you down when you’re trying to take a survey, but I’m working out how to get more people to respond, and in any case, I’m emboldened to go back out. It’s good to do things that make you uncomfortable when God is in it. 

Step 5: Have no agenda. Let go of control.

I had no agenda other than to collect information from those who would volunteer it. I didn’t set out to change someone’s thinking. If that’s your agenda you’ll likely be avoided like the plague. Be honest and sincere. God will bring about the spiritual conversations with those he’s already prompting. 

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The Simple Survey

Q1: Have you read very much of the Bible? 

Answer: Yes

Follow-up to Yes: Are you interested in it still? 

Answer: Yes 

You can talk about how great it is to follow Jesus. But what we’re really interested in is if they answer No to either question. 

Answer: No. 

Possible follow-up: what makes you say that? Hold this question in reserve. If they seem like they’re trying to move on, simply thank them for their time and avoid the question. 

Q1: Have you read very much of the Bible? 

Answer: No

Follow up to No: Would you be interested in reading it with someone if you knew you wouldn’t be judged or told what to believe? 

If it looks like they’re interested, follow up with, “What makes you say that?” Just listen and follow the Spirit in the conversation. Be curious! If they are in a hurry to move on however, thank them and let them go. 

Photo by Paolo Gamba is licensed under CC BY 2.0.